The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living survey puts Vientiane at the 209th most expensive city out of 227. Regionally, the cost of living for expats in Laos is similar to or slightly less than in Thailand and more costly than in Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, though this depends largely on lifestyle.

With 80 percent of Laotians living modestly as farmworkers, the typical expat lifestyle is comparatively lavish, and the scarcity of similar consumers will drive up the price of luxury imports and products. Globally, the cost of living for expats is similar to that of Egypt or India.

Laos is a landlocked and largely unindustrialised country, and imported and luxury products go for a premium. Although local produce and basic amenities are cheap, expats may be surprised at the cost of internet and of the kind of food and accommodation they are used to.

Cost of accommodation in Laos

Given the low population density in Laos, it's not surprising that the price of accommodation throughout the country is affordable compared to most of Laos's neighbours. That said, the price goes up in popular destinations like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, especially in the city centres.

The quality of accommodation in Laos varies widely, and expats should look for rental accommodation with a clear idea of what they want in terms of amenities and utilities. Alternatively, it may be a good idea to hire a real estate agent who is familiar with the local accommodation market and with experience working with expats.

Cost of transport in Laos

Buses are the most widely used and most affordable mode of transport in Laos, though rough roads generally make bus trips uncomfortable and lengthy. Slow boats are also quite affordable though not the fastest way to travel, as their name suggests.

Less affordable are taxis and tuk-tuks, and costly domestic air travel for longer hauls. The new rail line presents a more affordable alternative to air travel, though tickets can be hard to come by on short notice.

Driving is not recommended for expats in Laos, as cars are costly and can open expats to a great deal of liability.

Cost of groceries and eating out in Laos

In Laos, basic grocery staples like fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and milk are widely accessible and largely inexpensive. Expats can purchase imported Western goods at certain supermarkets, although these will cost substantially more than they are accustomed to.

Lao cuisine is influenced by Indian and Chinese food, and Lao is known for its trifecta of sticky rice, larb (a spicy meat salad) and green papaya salad. In Vientiane and Luang Prabang, a variety of upmarket French and European restaurants cater for the tourist population, though eating at these establishments can be pricey. Expats looking to eat out affordably could consider street food, though they should be aware that some varieties of larb call for raw meat or fish, which can be vectors for parasites.

Cost of education in Laos

Public education in Laos is free, but although literacy and education in Laos have steadily improved since the 1990s, the country has a long way to go to improve its access to and quality of education. Combined with the fact that the language of instruction is Lao, this makes it highly unlikely that expats will enrol their children in a Lao school.

International schools in Vientiane present a more palatable offering, but at high costs. If relocating for work, expat parents should try to negotiate educational costs into their contracts.

Cost of living in Laos chart

Prices vary depending on product and service provider across Laos. These are the average costs for Vientiane in January 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

LAK 8,600,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

LAK 4,600,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

LAK 18,400,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

LAK 13,900,000


Dozen eggs

LAK 34,800

Milk (1 litre)

LAK 195,000

Loaf of bread (white)

LAK 29,400

Chicken breasts (1kg)

LAK 72,300

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

LAK 34,200


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

LAK 3,360

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

LAK 268,000

Basic utilities (average for a standard household)

LAK 1,590,000

Eating out and entertainment

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

LAK 404,000

Big Mac Meal

LAK 84,000


LAK 35,000

Coca-Cola (330mL)

LAK 15,400

Local beer (500mL)

LAK 18,900


Taxi rate per 8km

LAK 124,000

Monthly city-centre transport fare

LAK 100,000

Petrol (per litre)

LAK 9,782